“I didn’t know what to say…”

Can we stop normalizing that concept? Please? I don’t mean it towards the well-meaning, hearts in the right place acquaintances who worry they’ll say the wrong things, but the ones who never say a word, about anything, and ultimately disappear.

I have found in my now two years of grief that the phrase “I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing” gets thrown around a lot. Really. Really. Often. And to be honest, it wasn’t said to me that much.  I have a small “tribe” of friends who have held me up, but I’ll be damned if they are not some of the best support anyone could ask for. The thing is though, they’ve all known hurt, and loss, and pain. Some know realities far heavier than my own. Some are in the midst of that reality even as I write this. So those people, my rocks that I love dearly, have always known what to say. I hope I am as much what they need as they are what I have needed.

I have had others show up that have helped me greatly, and had some that I thought would always be there drift their way out of my life. I have had some say the wrong thing more than once. Okay, really just one person, but she means well. And she tries. We just don’t speak the same language and probably never will. But she tries. And that is ultimately what matters.

I have read in various blogs and articles how many times not knowing what to say gets offered as an acceptable reason to say nothing. Not everyone in your life is supposed to lead you through grief. But some are, and they don’t. I imagine out of fear of the repercussions for themselves if they choose the wrong words. And there are others who are genuinely afraid to make a situation worse by adding the wrong words at the wrong time, and their fear is honorable. But honestly, you can’t pick the wrong ones if you are making an effort. Most of us won’t vilify you if you say the wrong thing.

What’s funny is how often those of us that are the ones hurting offer the excuse on a silver platter to the ones who have offered us silence. Probably because it hurts a little less that way. Grief is a heavy burden to bear, including for those that walk beside us through our own pain. Some days it’s flat out ugly. But death is something we are all going to one day be faced with. That doesn’t make it easier to deal with, but we get nowhere by ignoring its’ effects on those of us left behind. Listen to the ones who have faced it. You may learn a lesson you will some day lean on heavily. I know I have.

I have been at this whole hurting thing for a while now. I have learned more than I ever thought I would. And I have found that the grief of others breaks my heart — in some ways — more than my own loss of my mom has broken me. Because I know a few things. I know the long road they’re now on before they get anywhere good. I know the roller coaster, the marathon, the waves, and every other metaphor that gets thrown around. I know that they have people that will drift away. I write this less for myself and more for those with pain that is new, or is ahead. I kind of know what I’m doing by this point. The silence of some no longer frustrates me. I have found the things that work for me, but for those who have it ahead of them, their grief needs people in the beginning. It needs a listening ear while they trudge through the many complexities of loss. It needs the presence of others. Even the ones who have no idea what to say.


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